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State track meet notebook: Capital freshman vaults to state title

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Congratulations, you just won the pole vault at the state meet, what will you do next?

"I'm going to Canada."

That's the case for Capital freshman Tristan Slater, who won the Class AAA pole vault title at the West Virginia track and field state championship on Saturday. Slater, born in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, holds dual citizenship in the United States and Canada, and will look to follow his personal-best effort by attempting to qualify for his homeland's provincial squad.

"I'm going to go for three meets up there, one meet is the qualifier for provincials," Slater said. "I'm going to try to make the provincial team, and if I make the provincial team, I'll go to nationals for Canadians." 

If all goes well in Canada, Slater could qualify to attend a July meet in Donetsk, Ukraine. To do so, he'll have to clear 15 feet by June 20.

 

Slater nearly took care of that qualification on Saturday. He earned the state title when his closest competitor could not pass 13 feet, six inches. After clearing 14 feet, six inches on his second attempt, Slater tried three times at 15 feet. Slater came up short each time, but his performance was hardly disappointing. 

"That is my best jump that I have ever made so far," he said. "It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It is the greatest thing.

 

"If it wasn't for my parents, family, friends, none of this would have happened today. I wouldn't be first." 

After living a year in Canada, Slater said he moved to West Virginia. It wasn't until middle school that he discovered pole vault, but fell instantly in love.

 

"I just got caught on it," Slater said. "I just saw the girls vaulting in sixth grade and I told my coach 'I want to do that sport with the pole.'" 

Since, Slater's dedication to the sport has grown exponentially. He practices at his own pole vault pit in his backyard in his Charleston neighborhood near Edgewood.

In addition to competing for Capital, Slater's also part of the Capital City Striders. Slater said he hopes to qualify for AAU nationals and the United States Track and Field nationals. 

Poca brothers lead the discus

Poca sophomore Christian Buckley and senior Quentin Buckley finished Nos. 1 and 2 in the boys Class AA discus.

Christian Buckley entered as the state's No. 1 with a season-best throw of nearly 15 feet farther than his closest competitor. On Saturday, Christian Buckley won the event's state title with a throw of 159 feet, four inches. Quentin Buckley finished the regular season rated fourth in Class AA, but exceeded his ranking to finish second alongside his younger brother Christian at the podium. Quentin Buckley claimed runner-up with a throw of 146 feet, 10 inches. 

Fellow Dot Jake Hickman also earned All-State honors in the discus with a throw of 144 feet, 0 inches.

In addition to his discus title, Christian Buckley recorded another state championship in the shot put. He improved on his season-best throw by nearly two feet with a toss of 51 feet, seven inches at the state meet. 

Rich and Burcham dominate the mile

Dylan Rich, of Buffalo, and Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham each won their respective class' titles in the 1600-meter run.

Rich, who recently committed to the University of Kentucky, missed the state meet record (4:23.18) by one-hundredth of a second, a record he set in 2012. 

"Basically, just I knew today I had to give everything I got and impress the UK coaches and just try to do my best out here," Rich said.

Rich entered the race as the favorite and beat his closest competitor by seven seconds. Still, Rich said he had areas he wanted to improve. 

"I'm really working on basically pacing myself, trying to get that pace set in my mind, try to go with it and push myself," he said.

Also in the Class A race, Charleston Catholic senior Marcus Black took fourth (4:36.70) and Irish teammate Caden McClanahan fifth (4:36.81) as both narrowly edged Doddridge County's Matthew Zorn (4:36.93). 

Like Rich, Burcham ran away from the field. After racing closely with Jefferson's Andrew Milliron for two laps, Burcham opened the gap in the final 800 meters to comfortably win. Burcham, an Oklahoma Sooners commit, finished with a time of 4:13.33

In addition to Burcham, George Washington's Matthew Brafford attained All-State status, finishing fourth at 4:24.73. 

In the Class AA boys 1600, Scott's Will Shaffer led all locals, placing second with a time of 4:24.80.

On the girls side, no one could catch standout Maggie Drazba, of St. Marys, though Charleston Catholic freshman Payton Mullen provided a gutsy runner-up performance in the Class A race. 

"I was just thinking to stay and do as best as I can and let her do what she can do," Mullen said of racing with Drazba.

Mullen finished in 5:30.31, while Drazba blew away from the field in 5:03.53, seven seconds shy of her own state meet record. 

Catholic's Quincy McKown took sixth and Peyton Keener eighth in the race.

In AAA, Capital sophomore Peyton Panger finished third at 5:10.99. 

"I was feeling good going in, but the competition was obviously working just as hard as I was and I'm really happy with how it turned out," Panger said.

Hurricane twin sisters Emily Schwendiman and Natalie Schwendiman, both seniors, finished sixth and 11th, respectively.


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